What's your quilt process?

I changed up the quilts page a bit recently to give some better insight to what’s going on in my head over here. Drupal lets me be flexible with my content types, and some time ago I set up a content type for my quilts. If you look at http://domesticat.net/quilts you’ll see my current works-in-progress are roughly ordered by state of completion. I thought I’d explain the terms; I get the impression sometimes that my friends think this process is really inscrutable, when it’s not.

Designing and researching.

It’s in my head. There’s a fine line between “I have an idea” and “Designing and researching.” D&R implies a level of commitment.

Hunting for fabric.

The chase has begun. What do I want? Do I have a specific motif in mind? Fabric from a specific part of the world? My fabric choices in Huntsville are limited, but I’m lucky; I have the internet, I am within driving range of excellent stores in Atlanta, and I have a friend in Minnesota whose tastes I trust and who has access to multiple excellent stores. I’ve spent plenty of time poking around, learning where I can get my hands on everything from Liberty cottons to Japanese indigos.

Cutting fabric

The gang’s all here. We’re not sewing yet, but my materials have arrived and I’m prepping them for sewing. By this time, the design choice is nearly irrevocable. For some quilts, I cut as I go, but some fare better if the fabric is all cut out ahead of time.

 Sewing

I split this category into two: “under 50% completed” and “over 50% completed.” Otherwise, quilts can languish here a while without seeming to make progress when I’m actually putting in a great deal of time on them. There’s a big difference between chain-sewing lots of tiny pieces together and doing final assembly of the bigger chunks at the end.

Sewn, awaiting quilting

Sucks, but quilts often have to stay here a while. I don’t have a longarm machine, and I can’t quilt anything here at home that’s larger than a twin-sized bed. My default quilt size is queen-sized, so that means a finished quilt top waits until I can book a free Saturday at the local quilt shop. If I stay on a steady schedule, I can predict when I’ll need the machine; if I can predict, I can schedule early and keep the logjams minimized.

Quilted but unbound

The three layers have been placed together and quilting is done. Often this term means “I finished quilting but I am so damned sick of the thing that I’ve put it aside for a little while.” Or it just might mean “it’s quilted and I’d like to finish it, but my sewing table is a mess.” Both situations are equally plausible.

Bound, awaiting washing

It’s quilted, and the edges are closed off, but for some reason I didn’t throw it in the wash immediately. Maybe it was late in the day. Maybe it was a weekend, and Jeff was washing clothes. Or maybe the cat was snoring on the quilt and I didn’t want to disturb his old bitchy bones.

Washed, awaiting seam tightening

When I was younger, I thought of quilts as monolithic things. They were Single Entities, and it seemed like once they were finished, they were finished and perfect forever. Not so. Especially if you’re dealing with tiny seam allowances, or weird seam junctures. Seams pop. Wah. It’s the price you pay for machine-washing quilts. So, after the first wash, I check them over thoroughly and neaten up any seams or corners that got loose and frisky during the wash. These aren’t art quilts, they’re functional quilts – made to be used, washed, loved on, lived with, and washed again. I’d rather find any problems early and fix them before giving them to their forever homes. It’s nice to be able to say “I’ve washed it, checked it over, and washed it again – use it without fear and wash it without hesitation.”

Finished and given away

If you don’t understand this part, give up now, for you are lost and doomed. You’re also never getting a quilt. Smile

So what does it all mean?

I usually have multiple projects going at once, but without making the stages clear it makes it sound like I’m rotating between sewing on quilt A one night, quilt B the next, quilt C the following night, etc. In fact, it’s a bit more restful than that. There’s usually one waiting to be quilted at any point; it’s sitting quietly on the couch and awaiting some love. Whatever’s being actively sewn is on the table; whatever’s in idea phase sometimes sits at the corner of the table for me to riffle through as ideas strike. One night I might research fabric for one quilt, another I might cut fabric for another, the next I might sew. I get little tastes of all stages of the process, and in theory it should help keep me from burning out on the more intense quilts I have coming up.

Are there quilts not on the list yet? Yes. Just because I don’t have that Ammann-Beenker quilt of Liberty fabrics on the list doesn’t mean it isn’t on my mind; same with the chair tiling quilt made of the Rouenneries fabrics … and then there’s that Socolar tiling that entices me so…

Comments

Amy, love this! Have been thinking about quilting a lot, as I’m at my in-laws’ house, and one of my prouder design accomplishments is hanging over their stairs. Unfortunately, my quilting space is storage at the moment and will require about a day’s worth of digging out.

So here’s my deep follow-up observation: I find that quilting is a lot like web design. Rereading your steps, “Designing and Researching” is “hey, I could make a really cool site for that.” “Hunting for Fabric” is poking around and looking at other sites like the one I want to design, and maybe picking out a Drupal theme or sketching up a wireframe on scrap paper. The most exciting part comes in the piecing, where you really see things coming together and feel the creative push and finally have something to show for your research and groundwork. And yes, when you get to the end, you are indeed beyond sick of the thing, but it’s those last little details that really finish the project and make it successful.